Fluoroscopy is used where real-time examination of the patient’s body is required. Some of the uses include positioning of orthopedic implants during surgery, catheters and pacemakers, viewing the movement of contrast agents, such as barium, through the body and studying the movement of parts of the body.
As with conventional radiology, an X-ray beam is passed through the body but instead of being registered on film, the image is displayed on a fluorescent screen. Modern versions digitize the image using ‘flat panel’ detector systems, which reduce the radiation dose required. The image is then intensified digitally and displayed on a screen or recorded for more detailed analysis later.
Contrast agents are used to make organs in the body visible on the images. They can be given by injection into the blood stream or via tubes into internal organs. Barium products, taken orally, are used for examining the gastro-intestinal system. Fluoroscopy is used in many types of examinations and procedures, e.g. barium X-rays and enemas to view movement through the gastro-intestinal tract (Figure 1)1.
As with all X-ray procedures, fluoroscopy exposes the patient to a small amount of ionizing radiation. The exact amount varies according to the procedure. This in turn is associated with a low risk to the patient. Doctors and manufacturers know about these risks and do all they can to minimize radiation dose, keeping the exposure time to a minimum. These risks, however, are remote and experts consider them to be far outweighed by the benefits of an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Nevertheless, women should always inform their physician or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant.